When he looks back at the beginning of his career as a triathlete, Ben Rudson, a 24-year-old Calgary native, acknowledges just how unlikely it was.
In the summer of 2014, at 19, he we was working in Kingston, Ont., where he attended Queen’s University. He decided he needed a goal to keep him active, so he found a local triathlon that was taking place at the end of the summer and started training in running, biking and swimming.
“Now I will say picking a triathlon under such a short time frame is a little crazy. And certainly, if I, having been an experienced triathlete now, if I was advising my past self five years ago, I probably wouldn’t give the advice to kind of jump in on such short terms,” he said. “It was a little bit of ignorance is bliss.”
He went from barely swimming 100 metres at the beginning of the summer to completing his first triathlon at the end of it. And since then, he has continued to improve.
He dedicated himself to triathlons and is a rising star in the sport. He’s represented Canada at the Iron Man World Championships, was the overall champion of the Canadian National Championship in Ottawa in 2017 and earlier this year, he finished seventh at an International Triathlon Union World Cup race in China.
Rudson said he likes endurance athletics because they are “the epitome of meritocracy.” Some of a triathlete’s success is due to natural talent, but most of it can be chalked up to hard work.
“If you just keep plugging away and do the right things – train hard, work hard, work smart – you can accomplish really great feats in the sport. I think that’s what’s so cool about it – you have almost total control over how far and how advanced you want to get in the sport,” he said. “There’s a really strong correlation between the work you put in and what you get out of your performance.”
Rudson said he doesn’t have any specific goals about where he wants his career to go. “If you told me, back when I started triathlon in 2014, that three years later I’d be the amateur national champion, that’d be ludicrous. Or two years later, I’d be going to the Ironman World Championships, or five years later, racing as a professional athlete … that would have been just absolutely insane,” he said.
“So I almost hesitate to put goals to it, just because I don’t want to limit myself, and I want to really see where I can get.”
Rudson said he has to make a lot of sacrifices – not just physical, but social, as well. Aside from the 20-30 hours of pure training he does a week – and that’s not counting all the other time he has to put into his career – he needs eight to 10 hours of sleep every night and needs to be careful about what he puts into his body. A night of drinking doesn’t fit into his regiment. He said that his Judaism helps motivate him to stick with triathlons, despite the sacrifices.
“We’ve been, as a people, oppressed and challenged throughout history and, you know, we kind of have a chip on our shoulder,” he said. “It gives you that motivation to prove yourself, and to give you confidence to go out there and just do it and not to worry about what people are saying or thinking of you, but to really be a champion of yourself and to make things happen.”